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Indians ride historic stretch to second straight AL Central title

The Cleveland Indians are once again champions of the American League Central.

Riding the wave of a modern day record 22-game winning streak that only ended on Friday, the Cleveland Indians took command of the division before securing their second straight title on Saturday. The Indians clinched thanks to their own 8-4 win against the Royals during the afternoon, and the Twins 7-2 loss to the Blue Jays in the evening.

About the only thing that hasn’t gone right for Cleveland over the past month is that they weren’t able to clinch on their own or celebrate on Saturday. Instead, that will be saved for after Sunday’s finale against Kansas City.

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Don’t make the mistake of thinking Jose Ramirez or his teammates won’t be ready.

Overall, the Indians have won 23 out of their last 24 games, and have outscored their opponents 153-45 in the process. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen a team surge to the postseason with such dominance and determination. Even the wildcard Rockies from 2007 pale in comparison, as they merely won 13 out of 14 regular season games to force a tiebreaker. Thirteen wins was so two weeks ago in respect to this Indians run.

Another difference is that the Indians were already well positioned before they started crushing every team in sight. The Indians were a comfortable 5 1/2 games ahead of Minnesota, who by the way still hold the second wildcard position, when the hot stretch began on Aug 24. That lead has since grown to 14 1/2.

Jose Ramirez scores on a double by Jay Bruce as the Indians extended their winning streak to 22 games on Sept. 14, 2017. (AP)

Even with the division wrapped up, the Indians still have some work to do. First, they’d love to secure home field advantage over the Houston Astros. But even if that doesn’t happen, they will turn their attention to finishing what they couldn’t in 2016. Cleveland came up one win short of winning its first World Series championship since 1948 after letting a 3-1 advantage against the Chicago Cubs slip away.

This team is certainly equipped to do that. With a mix of All-Stars like Corey Kluber, Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, in addition to key veteran additions like Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion, the Indians have no shortage of players who can change a series on their own. More importantly than their star power though, they seem poised to enter October a much healthier team than they were one year ago.

Last year Cleveland’s rotation was decimated by late-season injuries to Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer, who was never really effective after lacerating his finger while cleaning his drone. All three should be available, with Salazar now adding to an already deep Indians bullpen. It’s hoped Andrew Miller will stay on track too after dealing with knee issues. He returned to action on Thursday.

There’s a lot to like about this Indians team, and that’s not an overreaction to their recent success. If it’s not the Indians hoisting the World Series trophy this season, it feels like whoever does will have to go through the Indians to earn that honor.

Cleveland Indians players thanks the fans moments after their 22-game winning streak came to an end. (AP)

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Mark Townsend is a writer for Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at bigleaguestew@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!